Cedars-Sinai Blog

Perspectives from a Brain Tumor Survivor

Fifteen years ago, a scary diagnosis ripped through Desmond's life "like a hurricane."

After strange symptoms sent him to urgent care, Desmond, then 35, underwent a flurry of emergency tests and appointments before a surgeon told him there was nothing he could do to treat a rare, aggressive brain tumor. But Desmond couldn't accept that, and so, he rallied.

He sought advice from others who'd been treated for similarly difficult conditions. He leaned on his family, who helped keep him positive. And he connected with confident, expert physicians who shared his goal: for him to recover, and to live.

"Hang in there and stay positive. Stats don't mean anything—don’t read them. Life doesn’t end when you get diagnosed."

Ray Chu, MD, Associate Professor of Neurosurgery at Cedars-Sinai.

Ray Chu, MD

At Cedars-Sinai, Desmond and his surgeon, Dr. Ray Chu, made a plan to address the tumor. Desmond's siblings traveled from Australia, Ireland and England for his three-hour surgery, during which Dr. Chu removed about 80% of the tumor. After six weeks of radiation and over a year of chemotherapy, Desmond recovered.

Today, the painting contractor who lives in Culver City marvels at how lucky he has been to be alive the last 15 years. He married his longtime sweetheart, Colleen, and the couple has twin boys, Finn and Dillon, now 12. He was lucky to keep working through his treatments, and he stays busy taking his sons to basketball and soccer practices. The family loves to ride their bikes to the beach to play football together, and plan to travel to Ireland next year.

And now, Desmond is the one fielding calls from friends, acquaintances or colleagues who connect him with others who've been diagnosed with brain tumors. Desmond knows that after a heavy diagnosis, personal conversations are far more productive than internet searches, and he says no matter the prognosis, he tells everybody the same thing.

"Hang in there and stay positive," he says. "Stats don't mean anything—don't read them. Life doesn't end when you get diagnosed. You don't have to lie down and take it—there's hope."

Desmond takes medications so that he doesn't have seizures and undergoes an MRI of his brain every four months to check for tumor regrowth.

He doesn't worry before his appointments—the process is efficient, and his doctor remains calm and optimistic.

"It's like a day off for me when I go every four months," he says. "With my team, I've always felt safe and knew I was going to beat this thing."

Desmond looks back not on how he suffered, but on what he learned after making it through.

"I don't take things for granted," he says. "I got through this with the support of my friends and family, who are phenomenal. I have so much more perspective and more appreciation for life, and it has helped make me a better dad."

Dr. Ray Chu talking to Desmond in an office.